FROM THE FILES OF THE FBI 310
[there is no indication where or when this was originally published]
Dianetics and Psychosomatic Disturbances
by Frank A. Gerbode, M.D.
There is widespread agreement amongst medical professionals and lay public
that a large proportion of man's ills are psychosomatic. By
"psychosomatic disturbances" is meant "disturbances in the body caused by
disturbances in the mind." These may range from minor ones, like Excedrin
Headache Number 57, caused by burned Jello, through "compensationitis",
e.g., delayed healing of a back injury because the patient continues to
receive pay for having the injury, to actual recognized disease entities,
such as asthma, that are thought to be psychologically caused or
That mental disturbances can and do cause physical disturbances is now
beyond dispute. A study done at Yale Medical Clinic in 1951 showed that
76% of all patients suffered from what was called "emotionally induced
illness." Having personally worked at the Yale Clinic, I would agree that
this "disease" category far outweighs all others in that and other medical
Psychosomatic disturbances fall into several different categories. The
most classic form is the so-called "conversion reaction." This name comes
from the psychoanalytic theory that emotional disturbances or complexes
are "converted" into physical manifestations so that the individual can
express or defend against expressing these complexes without having to be
aware of doing so. Thus, a person may be hysterically blind to defend
against the memory of having seen his parents having intercourse or
paralyzed to defend against aggressive impulses. A rather dramatic
example of this kind of psychosomatic phenomenon is pseudocyesis or
pseudo-pregnancy, in which a woman or even a man may induce a physical
condition similar in appearance to pregnancy, complete with hormonal
changes, as an expression of a repressed desire to be pregnant.
In addition to these rather dramatic--and rare-- instances of physical
disabilities for which there is no classifiable physical disease process,
there is the less dramatic manifestation of hypochondriasis, a constant
preoccupation with the body and real or imagined physical problems. A
fact often overlooked by harried physicians who have to deal with these
patients is that hypochondriacs are characteristically in real physical
distress, with real aches, pains, and other abnormal sensations.
Even illness with well-defined physical causes are profoundly affected by
the psychological state of the individual. It is well known, for
instance, that epileptic seizures and diabetic crises--not to mention
heart attacks and ulcers--are frequently precipitated or aggravated by
emotional crises. Asthma, migraine headaches, ulcerative colitis, atopic
dermatitis, and a variety of other very real physical illnesses are
thought by many to have mainly psychological causes. And it is currently
being widely acknowledged that all forms of illness may be strongly
influenced by psychological factors.
At any rate, doctors find that a large proportion of their patients are
"crocks." "Crock" is a term of contempt for people who, for psychological
reasons, refuse to get well and continually haunt clinics and physicians'
offices, frequently "shopping around" from doctor to doctor, giving them
all failures and making themselves very unpopular. When confronted with
such a patient (who is more politely called a case with "psychological
overlay"), a family physician will, if he is ambitious, administer
psychotherapy himself insofar as he can, but more often he will refer the
patient to a psychiatrist. Having received many such referrals, as a
psychiatrist, I can attest that these cases are quite frustrating to
handle within the framework of traditional psychotherapy. Although
psychoanalysts have for decades felt that treatment of psychosomatic
conditions was possible, they have only had any real success in the rarest
category of psychosomatic disorders--conversion reactions, and while these
cases in Freud's time seemed to resolve in months, the current
psychoanalytic timetable is measured in years.
A patient who suffers from an immediate physical problem
characteristically has little interest in a long-term therapy. He wants
relief now and is usually not satisfied with the explanation that his
Oedipus complex will take 3-7 years to resolve. Consequently,
tranquilizers and reassurance is the most common form of treatment, since
this affords immediate relief and is therefore acceptable to the patient.
Moreover, this form of treatment does not cure his condition. Rather, it
serves two purposes: It
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dulls the patient's awareness of the condition by partially obtunding him
and it renders him apathetic by giving him a message that it's hopeless to
effect a real cure. This is a desirable outcome, not for the patient, but
for the referring physician, who is no longer harassed by the patient.
Most psychiatrists are trying to make the best of a job for which they
lack adequate tools. If it is in fact impossible to afford psychosomatic
cases relief from or cure of their conditions, then the sooner everyone
knows it's hopeless, the better. One could get very frustrated and
unhappy trying to run the 10-second mile. However, the psychiatrist who
wishes to treat such patients has, whether he knows it or not, incurred an
obligation to have a very good look around to see if anyone has a way to
handle these disorders before deciding they are untreatable. Any method
which is claimed to be workable by its proponents needs to be looked at
carefully to see whether it is or not. If psychiatry had an effective way
to handle psychosomatic problems, psychiatrists could afford to ignore lay
techniques, but since it doesn't, they can't.
I was lucky enough to have a close friend who told me enough about
Dianetics to make it seem worthwhile to investigate further. I found,
first of all, that Dianetics has a sound theoretical structure, one whose
principles are readily understandable and intuitively acceptable.
Dianetic theory, like most theories that are close to the truth, is
simple, of wide application, and predicts further data which, when sought
after, will be found. Its results are duplicatable in practice by anyone
who is willing to get trained in its techniques. Dianetic counselling
[sic] acts by eliminating the psychological factors that tend to hold an
illness in place, thus allowing the natural course of healing or medical
treatment to proceed unimpeded.
Dianetics does not compete with medicine as a healing technique. A
Dianetic counselor requires that counselee to obtain a complete medical
exam and appropriate medical treatment before starting Dianetic
counseling. Thus it turns out that Dianetic groups are a major source of
referrals for doctors. And doctors whose patients are concurrently
getting Dianetics have the gratifying experience of having their
treatments work well.
The primary purpose of Dianetics is not healing but the elimination of
distractions which a nonoptimum bodily and emotional state causes. Even a
relatively minor disorder such as hay fever or a headache can greatly
lower a person's efficiency in life. Phobias, such as fear of heights or
less "clinical" fears, such as fear of talking in front of groups, can
restrict one's life considerably. Drug addiction could be said to be
caused by the presence of unwanted body sensations and emotions that
compel use of drugs for their alleviation. When these unwanted sensations
and emotions are handled Dianetically, a person has no further need to use
drugs. He is then free to go about the business of living a full life.
1. Psychosomatic disorders and emotional upsets make up the vast majority
of human suffering.
2. Standard medical treatment alone is inadequate to alleviate much of
3. Psychiatric resources are few, consisting mainly of offering support
and drugs to help a person live with a condition he cannot hope to cure.
4. Outside the standard psychiatric framework, there is a precise,
duplicatable technique which, when correctly applied, uniformly and
predictably leads to cure or great improvement in psychosomatic disorders
when combined with standard medical treatment.
5. The purpose of Dianetics, however, is not primarily to heal bodies but
to free an individual from physical and emotional distractions so that he
can pursue the business of living with maximum efficiency.
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